With today’s multitasking work styles and short attention spans, it’s essential to plan meetings and presentations so you grab and hold your audience’s attention. You need to allow enough time for each section, as well as for the entire event. This is especially important to avoid those “drop outs” who become bored quickly.
It’s your job to make your event interesting and interactive, with enough breaks to keep the energy high. Before we give you some proven tips and tricks, let’s check out…
What the Experts Say.
We asked Marta Eichstaedt, webinar expert, business coach/consultant, and certified online trainer, how she determined the proper length. This is what she advised us:
“The length of a webinar depends on the goal we want to achieve. There are, however, some rules and techniques that apply. In general, when used as marketing tools, webinars should last between 30 and 60 minutes. This length should take into account time for interaction with your audience.
Training events can last longer. For example, I organize online workshops for trainers who want to run their own online training series. These workshops take 90 minutes and the whole course includes 7 meetings. The attendee group is really small (maximum 6 people) and there is a lot of interaction and activities performed by the attendees themselves. However, even with highly interactive workshops, I wouldn’t recommend exceeding two hours per session.
Another example is an extended conference like the Social Media Success Summit which comprises 4 weeks of training in weekly or biweekly webinars, each lasting about 45 minutes. They hold three webinars a day, with 20-minute breaks. The whole event is about 20 different webinars altogether and this format turns out to work best for this topic and audience.”
After hearing from the experts and, based on our own experience, we can conclude that webinars typically last around 60 minutes – about the length of an installment of your favorite TV series. This also makes it easy to fit in most of your attendees’ calendars.
What should a webinar include?
The crucial thing is to plan your content so that it’s interesting and allows enough time to cover the essential topics and activities. And practice! Here are some tips to consider:
- Polling. This tool provides both feedback and interaction. And the best thing is you can continue speaking while your attendees answer the questions, then quickly present the results with an animated chart.
- Alternate tabs. Use tabs to quickly switch between content (just make sure to upload the documents etc. before the webinar). This will keep your audience entertained without wasting your time (and there’s nothing worse than making your attendees wait until your PowerPoint uploads).
- Pace yourself. Don’t rush, making it difficult for the attendees to follow you. Try to find that perfect balance whereby you cover all the material, capture feedback, and make some decisions. Now this may take some practice. But it’ll be worth it.
- Hold a Q&A session at the end. Wrap up at least 15 minutes early to let people ask questions. Don’t forget to put this in the meeting agenda as this is a popular item with attendees. Then they’ll be sure to stick around till the end.
When to schedule a webinar?
There are as many date/time preferences as there are people, so it’s best to use your own judgment and follow a few common-sense rules. And always think about your audience first.
- Think of when you like to attend webinars – Monday is usually when people are busiest after the weekend and a lot of unexpected projects pop up. The same can be said about Fridays, plus you have the “TGIF” factor. So sometime around the middle of the week is probably best.
- As for time of day, one factor to keep in mind is that if your audience is international, you obviously need to pick a time when the greatest number will be able to attend, regardless of time zone. Of course this, again, depends on your audience so the best thing to do is place yourself in their shoes.
- If you run a series of webinars, you can always poll your attendees or prepare an online survey and ask your audience what days and times they prefer. This is likely to be true for other people who might join your webinar, too.
All in all, there’s something in the maxim about writing that could also apply to webinars: A skirt should be long enough to cover everything, but short enough to make it interesting. 🙂
Have any experience regarding today’s subject? Share it with us in the comments.